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Dulcich’s Dedication Defines Commitment

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Choosing to be a volunteer firefighter means sacrificing your time and energy for the sake of your community, and the health, safety and wellbeing of its inhabitants.

For the last 54 years, Jim Dulcich, a volunteer firefighter for Mariposa Public Utility District’s (MPUD) Fire Department, has dropped whatever he was doing and responded to emergency calls and fires throughout Mariposa County. Sometimes this meant handing off a customer to one of his employees, or family members at his hardware store (Coast Hardware). Often times it meant cutting a family trip short, or missing an important event to respond to an emergency call in Mariposa County. 

Chief Jim Dulcich in front of Engine #22. (Photo provided by the Dulcich Family)

Dulcich has decided to retire officially from the MPUD, and on May 14 his fellow fire fighters and appreciative community will be gathering to honor him.

Dulcich’s first job in the firefighting environment was with the CAL FIRE Range Fire prevention crew in Paso Robles. He began embracing his passion for fighting fire as a kid, observing the volunteer firefighters in Mariposa as they burned off vacant lots around town. Later he returned to Mariposa, joined the Mariposa Volunteer Firefighters on May 2, 1968, and was assigned badge number 71.

Dulcich was sworn in as fire chief on Jan. 7, 1971. He has served as fire chief on and off as needed for 31 of his 54 years in volunteer service to Mariposa County.

Before Dulcich began volunteering with the department, it had just purchased its first new fire engine.  Dulcich was involved with the purchase of two more new engines between 1984 and 2008, the first time ladder truck, and the creation of Squad 22; MPUD now had four vehicles. He participated in custom ordering the first two engines, and outfitting the last two engines, the most current being the Rescue 22 vehicle.

Jim personally fabricated the interior cabinets of the engines to organize the tools. The Mariposa Sheriff’s Office had the first “Jaws of Life” aparatus in the county; MPUD added that life-saving device to the Rescue 22 tool kit, and it then became a dedicated first response vehicle.

Dulcich was one of the first in Mariposa County to be certified by the State Fire Training in Auto Extraction. As Chief, Dulcich oversaw the use of FEMA grant money to purchase a fire engine, personal protective equipment, radios and pagers. A joint grant with Mariposa County was secured, and MPUD bought the first thermal imaging cameras for the department. Dulcich also did his part to maintain the firehouse by doing routine maintenance, mowing lawns, and changing light bulbs. He also developed specialized fire training for his crew.

Jim and his son Gordon Dulcich at the firehouse in front of the station ladder truck. (Photo by Joanna Ransom)

Born and raised in Mariposa, Jim has always loved this community. He and his wife, Maryetta, raised their three children, Barbarann, Gordon, and Heidi, in Mariposa. The family grew up well-versed in radio scanner terminology because dad could be jumping up and leaving at any moment.

The Dulcich family recognized and supported Jim’s passion and dedication to MPUD and understood that they would need to make sacrifices as a family. Following in his father’s footsteps, Gordon Dulcich became a Mariposa volunteer firefighter in high school. Gordon had a pager and responded to emergencies with his father. Following graduation from Mariposa County High School, he took the steps needed and now has a career with CAL FIRE.

Russ Marks, one of Dulcich’s fellow firefighters at MPUD, said, “I was always impressed at Jim’s ability to keep up with the latest technology and training.” Jim, in his career, has seen the fire department move from a unique ring on the fire fighters’ home phones to radios in cars and engines, then pagers and now smartphones that can provide a mass of critical information. Keeping up with training had its demands as the department grew and changed from not just fighting fires, but responding to accidents and fire emergencies. Jims explained, “We just made it happen once a week. We met and trained as a department.”

Over the years, the generations of men and women who served with Dulcich respected his leadership and valuable experience; they commented that Dulcich could always be counted on in any situation because of his training and out-of-the-box thinking as a team leader, he could take on any emergency.

An example of this was the Pizza Factory Fire. Dulcich was traveling back from a day trip to Yosemite with his family when the call came in; Dulcich hooked up his crew in downtown Mariposa to fight the blaze.

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Jim and his team saved a couple of irreplaceable items, including the hand-carved front door that is seen today entering the Pizza Factory. A career-marking event for Dulcich and his crew as a team; they assessed the situation and solved problems as they occurred. This included containment to keep the fire from spreading to the rest of town, water runoff into the Mariposa Creek, and removing the charred debris within 24 hours of the blaze.

When asked how he plans to spend his extra time after retiring from MPUD, Dulcich says he plans to work on a new building for his Coast Hardware business. His dedication and commitment appears to be limitless.

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  1. Lamar says

    My mom (Florence Appling) worked for Jim at coast hardware for over 30 years and for Butterfly Market before that. She had nothing but respect for Jim, and he treated her like one of the family. What a treasure that town has in the Dulcich family!

  2. Troy says

    Thank you for your unselfish service Mr. Dulcich. Giving of yourself has no doubt helped and saved many.

    Thank you, Joanna, for the reporting.